In 2010, Rod Green and Yeong-Hao Han left lucrative, steady jobs in the mainstream gaming industry to enter the erratic world of indie development with their own studio, Lonely Few. They assumed making a complex yet accessible, high-quality zombie game for iPad would do well on Apple's App Store, and they were right.Brainsss
, Lonely Few's breakout title, became a featured app, generated a fair amount of media buzz and received stellar user reviews when it launched last month, and it is what Apple would consider a "success."
Unfortunately, Green and Yeong-Hao would consider it something else entirely.
The pair put $20,000 into the development of Brainsss
, and at the end of the first month, after its launch-sales spike and the end of its "featured" spot, the game has generated $31,000. This has to cover the initial development costs -- which included paying for the engine license and Apple SDK -- and their salaries for the year.
Normally, Green and Yeong-Hao could have made "between $85,000 to $100,000" in 2012 without counting benefits, since they've both been in the industry for years, Yeong-Hao told CBS
. We asked Green if he is able to support himself with the revenue from Brainsss
"Not at all," he said. "Mainly because of the time and cost it took to develop. Realistically a game like Brainsss
makes absolutely no commercial sense. You're better off making a much smaller, simpler and less-polished game to justify the result."
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said his company has paid out $5 billion to developers on the App Store. With 650,000 apps, that equates to $7,692.31 per app, divided evenly. Keep in mind many apps have more than one developer behind them, some of whom quit steady jobs to enter the indie scene, and the cost of development can dip into the tens of thousands. A "success" for Apple is not the necessarily the same as a "success" in reality.
Still, Green said he and Yeong-Hao are proud of their accomplishments with Brainsss
, and they will continue to support it moving forward.
"We set out to make a game we really wanted to make," Green said. "We're very proud of what we have achieved with Brainsss
and have absolutely no regrets."
Lonely Few is working on an update now that will include many of the most-requested features, and a "casual" mode that simplifies the controls to a single finger.
"We believe that part of the issue with the success of Brainsss is the overall complexity of the game," Green said. "We're competing with games that typically only have one-touch control, whereas Brainsss
has a more complicated and sophisticated control scheme involving multiple fingers. This seems to limit the audience somewhat."Brainsss
is also getting a free, "lite" version meant to entice more players into buying the full game, which sells for $3, and will be available on Android in the near future. Green expects a 30% return on Android compared to his iOS sales. If these tactics don't work, Lonely Few has a few ideas for titles with development cycles of 2-3 months. If those
don't do the trick, Green has one last idea:
"If that fails then we're going be dusting off our resumes and looking for work, content knowing we've given the indie thing our best."